A small history lesson for the extremely and disturbingly large group of “experts,” “journalists,” and elected officials who fifty-plus years later, still do not know why the U.S. was forced to place an embargo on Cuba’s criminal Castro dictatorship.
The Cuban Embargo Was Never Meant To Cause Regime Change
The more they say, the less you know. That seems to be the maxim behind President Obama’s latest foreign-policy move: his proposal to overturn the Cuba embargo and pursue full diplomatic relations for the first time since 1961.
In the words of the official statement: “Decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our objective of empowering Cuba to build an open and democratic country.”
Against all you’ve heard, here is the central fact: it was never the embargo’s purpose to cause a change in Cuba. Quite the contrary, the embargo’s purpose was — and still is — to protect Americans.
In that endeavor, the embargo, far from being a failure, has been a striking success. But hardly anyone sees it that way, because the matter has been buried beneath a fiction that haunts even those who might oppose the president’s proposal.
In its first 18 months of power, Castro’s regime seized American businesses and properties to the tune of $1 billion (1960 dollars). That massive theft was the proximate cause of the embargo. The U.S. cut its purchases of Cuban sugar and then cancelled nearly all trade.
As everybody knows, the U.S. then tried to overthrow Castro’s regime at the Bay of Pigs. That benighted event has given a sinister image to America’s Cuba policy. But U.S. efforts to bring about change in Cuba came to a certain end the following year, with the resolution of the missile crisis. And serious efforts by the U.S. to deal with Cuba and Latin America became much more sporadic after JFK’s assassination. For five decades, faute de mieux, the centerpiece of U.S. policy toward Cuba has been the embargo.
Hardly anyone talked about the embargo until the 1980’s, when the Soviet Union, which had been bankrolling Castro’s regime, began to fold. Castro and his allies, casting about for a new patron, looked with hope to the U.S. and created the myth of the failed embargo. The goal of the embargo, they said, had been to change Cuba. But since Cuba had not changed, the embargo was a futile policy and should be withdrawn. It was a sleight-of-hand, with the same party supplying both sides of the argument. While patently false, the argument has turned out to be remarkably durable.
As a matter of fact, the embargo policy has allowed for substantial trade between the U.S. and Cuba. With the total of U.S. exports for the last ten years reaching above $4.2 billion, America is one of Cuba’s largest trading partners. Even in the absence of full diplomatic relations, America’s Interests Section in Havana is a massive installation with several hundred employees; an embassy in all but name.
The problem with the embargo, for Cuban officials, is that it does not allow Cuba to do in the United States what it has done in the rest of the world. The embargo has denied Cuba a credit card on these shores. Cuba has not been able to borrow from U.S. banks or companies. All of Cuba’s U.S. purchases must be paid in hard currency, by advance deposit. These strictures have been well founded, their wisdom amply confirmed.
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